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Half-Baked Prophet

Beginner Tips: Look at All These Brushes

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Hello! I'm just getting into painting miniatures (I've Painted 2 whole miniatures with borrowed paints and brushes, that's how new I am!) and am looking to gather all the necessary tools for my little in-home painting station. I know that the quality and type of brushes are extremely important when painting miniatures. I know this question has probably been asked a million times before in a million different ways, but I was looking for some advice on the brush repertoire for learning all the important (early) skills!

Primarily, a brand or quality recommendation would be great, and then information on the size and type of brushes. What does round do versus flat? What sizes might I really appreciate having at the start? What's standard that I'll find myself using all the time? If I'm determined to learn some of the possibly more complicated techniques, are there brushes I'm going to need to achieve certain looks?

For instance, I'm really interested in painting monsters. Dragons, Beasts, the whole lot. Are there brushes that might yield to the techniques I'll be learning while doing those?

Thank you in advance for reiterating advice for a super beginner!

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The Craft has a Beginner's article: http://www.reapermini.com/TheCraft/32


As a lazy advanced tabletop painter, I recommend:

* Cheap natural hair brushes: Walmart or wherever. Use these for washes, drybrushing, and basecoats when you can. Basically, if you're new and make mistakes with your brushcare, you might as well destroy these brushes first! I minimize wear on the hobby brushes by using the cheap ones.

* Raphael 8404, Winsor and Newton Series 7, and Rosemary and Co. Round brush, watercolor. Not miniature brushes, which are for painting. The tip is more important than the size. Myself, I use 00 and 0 for highlights most often, but others recommend size 2 for basecoating, highlighting, etc.

* Pink Soap: Michael's. Others recommend Master's Brush Soap, but Pink Soap is also a conditioner, and easier to use if you're lazy. Unscrew the cap, dip the brush into the liquid, let the brush dry. Done!

Edited by ced1106
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Some basic info:

  • Brush hairs: The ideal natural hair for miniature painting is Kolinsky Sable hair as it has the right amount of spring, paint retention and ability to keep a point. But sadly among the most expensive. Because the acrylic paints used in miniature painting is much more fluid than canvas heavy bodied acrylic paints, watercolor brushes can be used. Other types of hairs, be they natural or synthetic, don't "feel" right, though may have their place for specific tasks. Painting terrain consisting of mostly rock, or just applying a coat of brush-on primer doesn't require top of the line brushes.
  • Brush sizes: Important factors are belly size and point. A large belly, can hold more paint for longer periods without drying, and natural capillary effects will make it keep its point. Because of this, larger brushes (size 1, 2) are surprisingly efficient at detail work. Smaller brushes (00, 3/0) tend to dry out too fast and lose their point.
  • Brush shapes: Rounds are the standard for painting anything. Flats are good for large surfaces.
  • Brush technique: Dry brushing destroys all brushes. So only use your oldest brushes for it (or use it as an excuse to learn better layering/highlighting techniques). Doing eyes or dots, avoid poking your brush as it will ruin the point. You learn to "draw" the brush along the surface. Paint dipping: avoid dunking the whole tip in paint. The ferrule (the metal clamp that holds the hair) should always be paint free. If paint gets too close or into the ferrule, it become more difficult to clean, residue will accumulate and it'll lose the point.

With time and experience, you get a feel of what works best for you. We have pros that use tons of cheap synthetics, and others who use and maintain the same Kolinsky Sable for years.

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Here is my 2 cents. I use Winsor & Newton Series 7 Miniatures (they also have a non-mini Series 7 line, so be careful). They aren't cheap, but last forever. I've been painting for years, and besides one accident with superglue on my cleaning paper towel and having a set stolen, I've never had to replace them. They aren't the only recommended brushes, but I like this brand.


I find I use my #1 the most, especially on larger figs such as monsters. I will probably buy a #2 soon as well, although I've been saying this for years. #0 is also a good choice. You might think you want a smaller brush, but it's really the accuracy of the point and not the size of the brush that matters. I do have a #3/0, but it doesn't get a lot of use. You'll have to order them online, I've never seen the 7 Miniatures carried at any retail establishment, no matter how fine art oriented.


Flat brushes are best used for dry brushing. I buy cheap stuff at my local craft store, as dry brushing is very abrasive on them. They get replaced periodically. I may also use flat brushes on much larger pieces, such as terrain.


I will second the note on pink soap, available at any decent hobby store. It's cheap and keeps your brushes clean. I rinse mine out after washing, though, as I don't want dried soap in my paint.


Speaking of which, wash all your brand new brushes before you first use them. They often have a sort of binder added as the last step on manufacturing to keep the bristles together.


You'll also need paint; I think Reaper Master Series in the best. You'll also want some sort of "extender" to help thin the paints. I've used everything from the tap water I use to clean my brushes to old Future floor polish, but have no other recommendations other than ask around and get something. Water can only thin acrylic paint so far before it "breaks" the paint. Hard to describe, but you'll know it when it happens.


Good luck and have fun!


PS. As it's on the subject, here is a link to a beginner's guide I wrote years ago, when my web server was still up. Fortunately, archive.org allows access to otherwise dead websites. http://web.archive.org/web/20101217190515/http://hacklopedia.com/Miniatures/tutorials/mini_painting_guide.shtml

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I prefer Rosemary & Co Series 33 brushes.  They are quite affordable and are extremely nice natural hair brushes.


The bellies on the Series 33 are nice and plump for holding lots of paint in your brush and they come to a great point.  They also have a Series 22 which doesn't have the big belly but the hairs are longer which makes it great for tight spots.


I use size 0, 1, and 2 round brushes.  With the Rosemary & Co brushes you can use a size 2 for everything from base coating to fine details.


If you're going to be brush painting monsters and dragons then you might look into getting a couple sizes of Filbert brushes.  I don't use them (I will probably get 1 or 2 in my next order to R&Co) but a lot of people around here recommend them for base coating and any large areas of the miniature.  They are also called "cat tongue" brushes as they look kind of like little tongues at the end of the brush.


R&Co, Winsor & Newton, Raphael 8404, or Davinci are all great companies and you probably won't go wrong with any of them.  Just a couple things to keep in mind though.  These are all hand made brushes (at least I think they are) so there is variation between any 2 brushes and I have heard of people getting a "bad" batch but chances are you will get a brush made by hands who care.  Second, and most important, if you are going to invest in nice brushes make sure you know proper brush care and that you are willing to take care of them or they will crap out in no time.


If you don't want to spend the money or take the time to care for your brushes you can always take the James Wappel approach.  He uses the cheapest brushes at Hobby Lobby (like 12 for $5) and throws them away when they crap out.  If you haven't seen his work check it out it is amazing!     

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